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Wings Over Scotland

The hyper-visible hypothetical

Posted on October 22, 2013 by

Our big story today could almost have been designed as the perfect test of the Scottish media’s professional integrity. The revelation that “Better Together” appears to have broken the law – again – by conducting an unlicensed lottery to raise funds isn’t all that dramatic in itself, though it would demonstrate an attitude entirely in keeping with the sneering, arrogant tone adopted by the No campaign in general.


The sum involved, though – £100, in the form of five copies of a £20 book offered in return for donations – does allow us to make a rather convenient comparison.

Because two months ago, the Scottish and UK print and broadcast media worked itself up into a quite astonishing froth of coverage of an issue coincidentally also involving the sum of £100, but in which absolutely nobody was accused or suspected of even the most innocuous crime.

In late August, news that Yes Scotland’s communications network appeared to have been illegally hacked was elbowed out of the way for a frenzy of hyperbolic scandal-mongering over the fact that it had paid academic Elliot Bulmer that amount to write a pro-independence article for the Herald.

Elliot Bulmer is an open advocate of independence, the Herald knew perfectly well that he’d been paid by Yes Scotland for the piece, and it was the newspaper – not the Yes campaign – which elected not to inform its readers of the fact.

No laws, not even any guidelines, were broken. There’s no rule of any sort against people being paid to write about their honestly-held opinions in newspapers. Nobody was deceived. Mr Bulmer didn’t change his mind about anything in return for the money, he was simply compensated for giving up his valuable time.

And yet this total non-event dominated the news agenda for days:

– an intensive grilling for Yes Scotland’s Blair Jenkins on Scotland Tonight

– the same on Newsnight Scotland

– a story in the Herald

– a story and filmed interview on BBC News

– another story on BBC news

– a story in the Telegraph

– a story in the Express (reporting Scottish Labour demanding the resignation of Blair Jenkins over the issue)

– a story in the Scotsman (headlined with the hacking allegation but which spent the vast bulk of its text on the Bulmer aspect)

– a story in the Times

– a story in the Courier

– a story in the Guardian

– a story in the Daily Record

– a story in the Independent (which almost never covers Scottish news)

-another story in the Telegraph (reporting how “Better Together” actually complained to the Office Of The Scottish Charity Regulator about the payment – a complaint which was recently thrown out, though you’ll struggle to find that fact reported anywhere)

– another story in the Guardian (on the same angle)

– another story in the Express (ditto)

And so on and so on, in countless local papers and websites that we’d be here all night if we tried to list. A man openly doing a perfectly legal thing – writing a newspaper article for a small payment – which saw him reported to a national regulator by the No campaign and Scottish politicians demanding the resignation of the person who paid him.

While the apparent conducting of an illegal lottery by “Better Together” is rather small beer in the grand scheme of things, it’s unquestionably – by any rational analysis – more serious than what Elliot Bulmer did, while involving the exact same amount of money. It would be a criminal act.

We broke the story at noon today and did all the groundwork, giving journalists ample time to look into it. And there’s a precedent for reporting of quite trivial breaches of the law by the No camp, so repeat offending would seem to be newsworthy.

So let’s all sit down with tomorrow’s papers and the rest of the week’s current-affairs shows and see how much coverage it gets, shall we? Because by measuring it against what happened when Elliot Bulmer wrote his article, we’ll see how balanced, fair and decent this country’s media really is.

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    71 to “The hyper-visible hypothetical”

    1. gordoz says:

      Lets see if the fishy bites

      (Oh and how long before Grangemouth becomes Alex Salmonds fault)

    2. HighlandMartin says:

      I suspect you might need a very very comfortable chair.  Very. 

    3. john king says:

      Im turning blue here 
      am I allowed to breathe?

    4. Calum Craig says:

      We’re not holding our breath, right?

    5. mogabee says:

      There won’t be anything and I’m not even outraged anymore!

    6. gordoz says:

      VIEWS are being sought on the BBC’s reporting of the upcoming referendum on Scotland’s constitutional future.

      More info here (12 week consultation starts today)

    7. Dorothy Devine says:

      Mogabee, please stay really very outraged  , you should be utterly disgusted by the antics of the media of Scotland.
      To not be outraged is to hand them the chance to continue  lying ,spinning and burying news.
      To their shame they  spin a web of deceit , denigrate democracy and deny the people of Scotland an adult debate  on independence.
      In years to come they will pay a price one way or another.

    8. Barontorc says:

      Whoa Rev, you’re getting very close to ‘something has come to our attention – do we investigate this lead, or look into it’s source’ keep it up chum, excellent!

    9. HandandShrimp says:

      I’m moderately confident that if Better Together started dropping polonium into key Yes Scotland campaigners tea the press would give them at the very least quite a hard stare for at least two or three minutes.

    10. Les Wilson says:

      So could anyone make a complaint to the “the Office Of The Scottish Charity Regulator ¬ ?

    11. kendomacaroonbar says:

      Gordon (brewer) is a moron.

    12. bunter says:

      Im sure it will be mentioned by the state broadcaster, if they can fit it into their schedule as they have an indepth on going investigation into the dodgy Dunfermline leaflet shenannigans.

    13. I’m predicting what we’ll actually get is ‘James Morton – My Victimisation by Vile Cybernats’ in the weekend papers. 🙁

    14. kendomacaroonbar says:

      @ Horace,  don’t forget the death threats… :-0

    15. blunttrauma says:

      Nothing to see here, move along now.

    16. Firestarter says:

      Straight to the jugular …. again, Rev! 🙂
      Oh, wait! Does a brass neck even HAVE a jugular??

    17. John Smith says:

      Keep it up Rev, 

      Tried bringing your previous article on the illegality of this lottery to the attention of the good folks on the Better Together facebook page. 

      Quite possibly the fastest comments to get censored and banned so far 🙂

    18. Morag says:

      (It’s Dr Bulmer….)
      Cue outrage over academophobic cybernat disrespecting honourable academic person….

    19. Jimbo says:

      I remember well the frenzy the MSM got into in their attempt to manufacture a scandal re Elliot Bulmer.
      Now that their BT masters have been caught at it (again), they’ll once again be getting themselves worked into frenzy – by hunting for an alternative scandal to take the pressure off BT.

    20. joe kane says:

      It’ll be interesting to see how mainstream news reporting of this latest Better Together buffoonery conforms to the most robust model in the social sciences, Chomsky and Herman’s Propaganda Model, which basically predicts any perceived crimes and threats  to the establishment (no matter how imaginary, such as Saddam’s WMD) will be blown out of all proportions whilst its own crimes receive marginal coverage if any. Or, in other words, how our largely foreign-owned and controlled Scottish news media manufactures consent for the No campaign, a campaign which is largely about keeping political power out of the hands of Scottish people who can’t be trusted with using it responsibly on behalf of the interests of the Whitehall-Westminster-Oxbridge-City of London elite.

      On the Chomsky Archive website –

      The Propaganda Model: An Overview
      David Cromwell
      Excerpted from Private Planet, 2002—-.htm
      In their 1988 book ‘Manufacturing Consent – The Political Economy of the Mass Media’, Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky introduced their ‘propaganda model’ of the media. The propaganda model argues that there are 5 classes of ‘filters’ in society which determine what is ‘news’; in other words, what gets printed in newspapers or broadcast by radio and television. Herman and Chomsky’s model also explains how dissent from the mainstream is given little, or zero, coverage, while governments and big business gain easy access to the public in order to convey their state-corporate messages – for example, ‘free trade is beneficial, ‘globalisation is unstoppable’ and ‘our policies are tackling poverty’. 

      The Propaganda Model Revisited
      Edward S. Herman
      Monthly Review, July, 1996–.htm

    21. Morag says:

      Elliot Bulmer is an actual member of the SNP.  Has been for years.  I doubt that’s a secret, but the outrage was all about how everyone believed he was impartial, but then we find he was bribed.
      Or maybe that was the scandal angle they missed!

    22. The Man in the Jar says:

      I hope that the MSM/BBC realise that this is all going into “The Big Black Book O` Nae Rubbin Out”

    23. Morag says:

      You know, I’d actually managed to wipe Bulmergate from my memory.  Thanks for nothing for bringing it up again.

    24. Angry Weegie says:

      @ Jimbo
      Now that their BT masters have been caught at it (again), they’ll once again be getting themselves worked into frenzy – by hunting for an alternative scandal to take the pressure off BT.

      Why do they have to spend time hunting for one when they can manufacture one themselves more quickly.

    25. Jimbo says:

      True, Weegie, true.

    26. TJenny says:

      Sorry my last post should have shown a pic of a poster by McV – but clearly didn’t work. So here’s the link instead:

    27. scotchwoman says:

      This is a really excellent article.
      It puts Scotland’s press and media to shame.

    28. Reider O'Doom says:

      My own recent experience with the MSM in Scotland:
      Went onto the Dirty Record website two weeks ago to read their story about Breadline Britain. In the Comments section I asked how the Record could continue to call itself “Scotland’s Newspaper” but still support a union where this kind of thing was happening to the poor.
      Result? I had my comment removed and I’ve been blocked from the site from making further comments about anything at all. Freedom of speech seems to be alive and well in the Scottish press, then.

    29. Angus McLellan says:

      Does anyone think the press will be covering the smears by SLAB councillors Monica Lennon and Davie McLachlan [tweets here]? No, I didn’t think so either. 

    30. Big AL says:

      As Les Wilson says, would it be of assitance if there were multiple reports questioning the Bet(sic) Together lottery?

      I do suspect that sadly this will be ‘Grangemouthed’ as gordoz mentions. Alex Salmond will be the centre of a firestorm being framed for closing the plant by the weekend.

    31. Angus McLellan says:

      Councillor McLachlan seems to have coined a new slogan for SLAB tonight: We don’t need to prove anything.
      Elsewhere on the intertubes, Michael Greenwell has a little Vimeo video here called “Who cares?”. Worth a look.

    32. G H Graham says:

      This article relies heavily on irony which is delivered with ease in the very first sentence; “Our big story today could almost have been designed as the perfect test of the Scottish media’s professional integrity.”.
      This is promptly followed up with an accusation of criminal activity; “… conducting an unlicensed lottery to raise funds …”.
      A logical test is then proposed to compare the behaviour of the British media towards the YES campaign versus their response to the NO camp.
      Finally facts are provided to inform the reader so that they might question the said professional integrity of the British media as well as the NO camp of course.
      It’s exactly this sort of intensive, acutely jarring journalism that has no place in any form of news & current affairs media in a 21st century Scotland. Rev. Campbell should be ashamed of himself for bringing the Scottish/British unionist media’s reputation into disrepute.

    33. Tattie-Boggle says:

      It’s getting harder to read about their lies. It would bring a tear to a glass eye

    34. Davy says:

      “G H Graham”, ‘the Scottish/British media’s reputation into disrepute’, err they actually have a reputation ???  

    35. Macart says:

      I have more chance of growing my hair back. 🙁

    36. john king says:

      I was thinking about the things that make us vote for a particular person/party
      and thought the first thing I would want to know, is this a likable person?
      does this person give me the feeling he/she has the community he/she wishes to serve best interests at heart?
      does this person come across a having a moral compass to guide him/her when faced with a moral dilemma?
      such as this policy my party espouses is not in my communities best interests, do I support the policy to the detriment of my community or do I stand up for the good people who took the trouble to come and vote for me or do I betray their trust?
      when the good people of Scotland have weighed up these thoughts and place carefully their x in the box they vote for the great and the good people who represent us,
      good people like
      Ian Davidson,
      Joanne Lamont,
      Anas Sarwar,
      Jackie Bailey,
      Margaret Curran,
      Alistair Darling,
      oh wait?
      oh well we’ll have a new crop soon maybe they’ll be better,
      that wee Cara Hilton now she’s honest! 🙁

    37. john king says:

      BBC  scotland news
      “the secretary of state for Scotland Alistair Carmichael is to appear before the Scottish affairs committee as part of the committees inquiry into the implications for the UK of Scottish independence”
      well that report will be short wont it,
       we’re doomed we’re all doomed

    38. Thepnr says:

      On an earlier thread people were asking about how others saw the debate. Here’s a Spanish perspective.
      It’s a long video but don’t miss it as it is well worth watching.

    39. Conan_the_Librarian says:

      Any story at all will be swamped by the wall to wall coverage of the wee princeling’s baptism.

    40. Stuart Black says:

      “The Big Black Book O’ Nae Rubbin Out”
      Well, that’s the first laugh of the day, good start…

    41. Stuart Black says:

      “Staff were impressed by Alex Salmond who made his own deer skin cape and wore a leather helmet topped with horns.”
      And there’s the second one, courtesy of Derek Bateman and his crannog satire.
      Shaping up to be a no bad day, troops.

    42. Ray says:

      Early days but absolutely nothing after a quick Google search of Better Together UK news in last 24 hours. Only stories on the manager of Crystal Palace, a band called Fifth Harmony, and Saudi Arabia’s stance on the US and Syria…

    43. Macart says:

      @Thepnr: I’ll check that out later over lunch. Cheers.
      @Ray: Yep, scanned a few of the usual suspects home pages, not a sausage so far.
      And still no sign of a single hair growing back. Doesn’t look good for the media’s ‘reputation’. 😛

    44. Stuart Black says:

      No signs as yet of any coverage of the story, shameless.
      They don’t know it, but they are actually cutting their own throats here, public consciousness can be a drawn out affair but, in a campaign this long, blatant media bias tends to get pretty noticeable after a while and, once the genie is out of the bottle, every episode of this nature just reinforces the public’s view of the perfidious game that the media are playing.
      Kudos Rev. for highlighting this, yer playing a blinder.

    45. Juteman says:

      Ot. Re the Grangemouth affair. I can’t help wondering if the connection between Ratcliffe and Taylor means this is a Better Together action.

    46. john king says:

      juteman says

      Ot. Re the Grangemouth affair. I can’t help wondering if the connection between Ratcliffe and Taylor means this is a Better Together action.”
      I dont think thats even a question, black ops indeed
      sounds like a scorched earth policy


    47. desimond says:

      Give it a few hours and NO Campaign will reveal that a certain Rev. Stu Campbell is in fact earning a wage whilst revealing such “fanciful” stories.

      Cue a massive Scottish Media campaign heading to Bath, the likes of which havent been seen since Sir Chris Hoy stopped off there once for an afternoon tea and commented that he did indeed like Devonshire cream!

    48. bunter says:

      Oh well, made a comment on The Heralds story regards John Majors utterings about Scotland going to vote NO, and  mentioned his equally uninformed friend Edwina Curry lol . My post also included a piece to the effect that the BT campaign may be  under investigation again due to an ”alleged” illegal lottery fund raiser, and may not survive much longer at this rate.  My post was published,  but without the piece about BT.  Shocker eh! Do I bin my subscription?

    49. Gordon says:

      Did you press release it to all the political journalists?  You bet Labour did and called them all on the Bulmer story.

    50. Luigi says:

      It is certainly important for WoS and other sites to continue highlighting the extent of MSM bias/propaganda against the movement for Scottish independence.  However, our shouts and complaints will be largely ignored.  We may even be accused of sour grapes, just because the MSM does not support our cause (why should they?).  The best way to deal with this is hit them where it really hurts – save our energy and work hard for a YES next year.

    51. ronnie anderson says:

      As one who does,ent pay a bbc licence fee dissna mean a dont watch it  REV noo your a very informed guy did you miss the piece on the bbc self adverizing  THEY ARE LOOKING FOR PUBIC OPINIONS AS HOW TO MAKE ( BBC BETTER ) I think oor cybernattys can offer a LOT of choice suggestions  ANY TAKERS

    52. Linda's Back says:

      Here is the link for BBC Trust consultation
      Need precise examples including  dates plus what they don’t report when its bad news for  NO Scotland. Contrast treatment of Ian Taylor’s £500,000 and DR Bulmer’s  £100. 
      Also as the MSM is obsessed with personalties I thought the Morton illegal dough story would have been front page news as it coincided with the Great British Rip Off.

    53. Brian Powell says:

      In the comments in the Herald, a while back,  I raised the issue of journalists in a democratic society.
      That editors would want to live in a democratic society and consider themselves part of the democratic process. After all they do live in the country where they publish, and generally use the same streets and services!
      That the press is an essential part of democracy.
      That reporting the truth and correcting news misinformation would need to part of the function of the newspaper; no matter what the personal stance was of the journalists and editors. The editorial would be where the stance of the paper would be described. Or in commentary articles.
      I did suggest, partly tongue in cheek, that the editors should write a series of articles on the press in a democracy.
      All of that was edited out of my comment, but the more general part, and a comment on the BBC was left in. The edit function was disabled so I couldn’t change my comment.
      Previously, and since, all my comments have gone in normally, though there is now a long delay!

    54. MekQuarrie says:

      I remember a lot of publicity around someone bidding for lunch with the FM at a charity event a couple of years ago.
      I suspect every spare minute today (count ’em) will be utilized to cover the future head of the Church of England being christened. And maybe a bit about the Bakeoff winner…

    55. Another London Dividend says:

      Papers like the Scotsman no longer have balance in their letters pages.
      On Monday it printed six anti independence letters from the usual suspects and one one pro indy letter.
      Its letter writers are free to attack and abuse Alex Salmond but friends have sent several pointing out flaws in Alistair Darling’s arguments and his past record a Chancellor and failure to deal with the banking crisis soon enough. without any references to his house flipping or cheating on his wife (and the sheer irony of his Better Together role), but none have been printed.

    56. Dorothy Devine says:

      MekQuarrie, to my astonishment the DT has been carrying photographs of a pregnant Duchess ,now photos of a mother Duchess , presumably to be followed by father and mother royalty photos.
      The pregnant ones had none of her puking which would have been more realistic for many a mum to be!

    57. Iain says:

      @Dorothy Devine
      ‘The pregnant ones had none of her puking which would have been more realistic for many a mum to be!’

      And certainly more representative of reactions in my house to unending access to the Hanover-Saxe Coburg-Windsor( ™ ) family photo album. 

    58. ronnie anderson says:

      BBc consultation paper page 4 comments from license fee payers , there ,s allways a get oot clause

    59. Scaraben says:

      I agree with others that the most likely response to this story by the MSM will be to totally ignore it. However, if for any reason they are unable to do this, there will be howls of outrage that nasty cybernats are are irresponsibly trying to make trouble for those nice people at Better Together over a completely inadvertent breach of a silly little rule that no right-minded person would be bothered about.
      Or am I being too cynical?

    60. Edward says:

      According to comment from Call Kaye reading her screen Grangemouth is to close

    61. FletcherOfSaltoun says:

      Brilliant again, Rev! My chuckle of the morning.

    62. KOF says:

      @Dorothy Devine 09:51
      Surely you mean Countess? 😉

    63. Edward says:

      Just updating, according to Call Kaye who is updating the on going situation. It is apparently the PetroChemical side that is closing and not the refining side
      All this happening and she continues to waffle on about baptisms. The BBC at its crappest

    64. Edward says:

      Scotland is being shafted
      Ineos are to close the Petro Chemical plant, but keep on the refining plant. BUT the refining plant relies on providing product to supply the Petro chemical plant. Ergo if there is no Petro chemical plant to supply to, then there is no reason for the refining side to continue
      I expect that INEOS will strip out the assets from the plant and send to another location
      Watch out for the unionists blaming the Scottish Government. The UK Government in the shape of Alistair Carmichael , made out this morning the UK government in the shape of the Dept of Energy were doing much to save the situation

    65. msean says:

      re Grangemouth-some balanced tv coverage please!

    66. mealer says:

      The MSM IS the NO campaign.They wont publicise their own failings.Its up to us do do that.Well done Rev.

    67. The Rough Bounds says:

      I suspect that in the end we will all find out that the real bastards behind this Ineos scandal are the Yanks. There are around 200 independent countries in the world and the USA has its big hobnailed boot in 175 of them, most assuredly with the complicity of the slimy bankers in the various countries.

      We would be terribly naive to believe that they and the bankers would treat Scotland any differently from the rest.
      We aren’t real human beings you see; we are numbers and that’s all.

    68. gordoz says:

      @ Lindas Back :
      How about any edition of Newsnight Scotland that Brewer appears on.
      BBC Scotland news generally?

    69. beachthistle says:

      “I remember well the frenzy the MSM got into in their attempt to manufacture a scandal re Elliot Bulmer.”
      I still think that articles like this that highlight the details of how much negative coverage was generated about the Bulmer non-story is helping to do Project Fear’s job for it.
      In my view the main point of that media/propaganda campaign re Bulmer was actually that it was so trivial and and legal – i.e. a warning to any other academics, experts, etc.  thinking of ‘coming out’ for Yes that they would be fair-game MSM smearwise, whether they deserve it or not… which in turn is linked to No’s current overall gameplan of slowing down the normalisation of being Yes…
      …the games they are playing with opinion poll results is another part of this strategy  – by the way, when is the poll we paid for a while ago coming out?  I think valuable time is being wasted by the delay – and ground given to No, as they triumphantly widely and consistently quote/repeat the (in my view inaccurate/contrived) 25% figure…

    70. lumilumi says:

      Thanks, thepnr @7.05am for that link.
      My Spanish isn’t quite up to scratch but I got the gist of it. It seemed balanced and informed, showed Scotland as the modern country it is, no biscuit tin tartanry there. A story of a multi-faceted, modern country with its own identity and traditions, and some peculiar problems with the powerful neighbour. Most of all, it showed Scotland as a country. Not just a region of la Ingleterra.
      I wish our YLE would do a similar piece on Scotland!
      But maybe YLE are too pally with the BBC. Finnish newspapers, as well. They love the Gruniard, and also pick stories from the Times and the tabloids. If they have British correspondents, they’re all based in London and get the London/Westmister filtered view.
      Back in 1992, Helsingin Sanomat (biggest quality broadsheet, with a circulation of nearly one million at the time) did a double page spread on Scotland, the SNP and Scottish independence. I still have the clippings of a younger and slimmer Alex Salmond and two SNP youth wing activists, Stewart Hosie and Shona Robinson.
      Since then… Almost nothing. The Edinburgh Agreement and the upcoming referendum was reported. Finnish journalist had a real headache about UK Prime Minister and Scotland’s First Minister. The Finnish word is pääministeri (literally, head minister) and the prime/first thing just isn’t translatable. They finally opted for “Skotlannin alueparlamentin pääministeri” (=Prime Minister of the Scottish Regional Parliament) but now when any Scottish stories appear, Alex Salmond is called “Skotlannin pääministeri” = Prime Minister of Scotland. Hm. Normalising Scottish independence…

    71. Thepnr says:

      Glad you enjoyed it, no need to speak Spanish the pictures and interviews in English said it all.

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